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Big Island, Virginia, History Project

A collection of photos, newspaper articles, stories, videos and audio about the history of the Big Island, Virginia area.

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Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Photographer: Willie Douglas
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Agnes Jones is making lye soap in an old scalding pot at one of the of the Big Island Community's fall festivals.  Agnes was dearly loved by everyone.  Before she died, she shared her story with Eva Yoder: "Agnes was born before the Great Depression (possibly around 1915). It is assumed that her mother was very young and was unable to take care of her since she was placed in a basket and abandoned on the steps of the ? Meeting Hall (just behind the cinder block building where the Eastern...
Topics: Agnes Jones, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, VA, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island Home...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Photographer: James W. Douglas
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A small store located across from Burks' Garage at the bottom of the hill just before the bridge at the intersection of Rt. 501 and Rt. 122. The Pop Shop was one of the places where men and boys gathered to play checkers and "shoot the breeze." The shop sold soft drinks, ice cream, candy, cigarettes, etc. Picture is from early 1980's.   There was a canal that ran under the shop. The water in the canal ran to Grist Mill and powered the watermill. 
Topics: store, pop shop, Pop Shop, VA, Big Island, VA, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, Asbery...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This is a view of Big Island from the Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge.  For more information on the bridge go to: https://bridgehunter.com/va/bedford/bh74660/  
Topics: Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Photographer: Willie Douglas
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The old Big Island Hotel where teachers boarded and railroad men stayed over. An important facility during the Batteaux Days and throughout the heyday of the passenger trains. Many banquets, weddings and special school functions were celebrated at this hotel. It was built in the early to mid 1800s. Packet boats would stop here as well. It was originally built and used as a warehouse. Packet boats were unloaded in to the building. In the mid 50s-60s the it was closed. One of the last people to...
Topics: Hotel, Beckman Hotel, Big Island Hotel, Big Island, Big Island, Virginia, Virginia, Big Island, VA,...
The original meeting house (a cabin converted) that became Hunting Creek Baptist Church. This church was planted by Suck Springs Baptist (located on current Jopling Road). The meeting house was located within sight of the current church (in 2019) on RT 122, Big Island Highway. This was the first date for Eva Booker Yoder and Jesse L. Douglas. It was chaperoned by Mr. Olsen (first name not know), a conductor on the C & O Railroad. Olsen knew both families. Eva, who was living in Lynchburg,...
Topics: meeting house, Hunting Creek Baptist Church, Eva Yoder, Jesse Douglas, Big Island, Virginia, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The cabin is located at the foot of Church Hill. The porch was added onto the cabin in the 60s.
Topics: Gatewood's Cabin, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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These photos are of the continued building process both outside and inside the Big Island Public Library.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
This is the 1st grade class of Mrs. Ethel Arrington, 1956. Mrs. Arrington lived in Charlemont. Her house is still there today. This class graduated in 1968 from Liberty High School. There were two first grade classes at the time because of the amount of students. These students were children were baby boomers.  During this time, there was not a separate building for 1st through 12th grade, until Liberty High School was built. Big Island then became the elementary school and Counter Ridge...
Topics: Big Island High School, 1956, Mrs. Arrington, Liberty High School, baby boomers, class of 1968, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Dawn Fisher, James W. Douglas
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Named in honor of  Milton E. Marcuse, owner of the pulp and paper mill in Big Island. Marcuse and Gustavus Millhiser purchased the mill in 1904. Millhiser died in 1914, at which time Marcuse and his 3 brothers purchased the remaining shares of the mill.   The new school replaced the one on the hill, which had been the Odd Fellows Hall.  M. E. Marcuse High School was completed in 1929. In 1948, the name was changed to Big Island High School.  The school was torn down when a new one was...
Topics: M. E. Marcuse High School, Milton E. Marcuse, Gustavus Millhiser, Big Island High School, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Willie Douglas
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The original Big Island bank building.  During the Depression years, this bank almost folded due to lack of deposits.  It was saved by Mr. Arrington (husband of Ethel, 1st grade school teacher at Big Island Elementary School) of Charlemont who generously deposited $5,000 into the bank (according to recollections of Henry Major Douglas). Willie Douglas reported that Norma McNeely Williams was possibly a teller at the bank when it was robbed in the 1950's.  Apparently, after dark, the robbers...
Topics: bank, bank robbery, Big Island Bank, Mr. Arrington, Big Island Bank robbery, Big Island, Virginia,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by James Douglas
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The Methodist Church on Plumtree Lane in Big Island is currently unused. It was damaged by a leak in the water system. The exact address for the church is 1011 Plumtree Ln; Big Island, Virginia 24526.
Topics: Methodist Church, Big Island Methodist Church, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Roanoke Times and World-News, Sunday, April 1, 1984. Article by Melinda J. Payne, photos by Don Peterson. Article features postmistress Mildred Snead, who wrote a book about Big Island, entitled "Around the Bend." The article also features Lydia Pryor was one of the oldest people in Big Island at the time the article was written. Ellen St. John is featured, as well as David and Maggie Mitchell. Ada Inge, 81, is also featured. All those featured talk about their love for Big Island and...
Topics: Roanoke Times & World-News, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Mrs. Verma Sowell's first grade class. This is one of two first grade classes in 1956 due to class size. These students were children of the baby boom. This class would have graduated from Liberty High School in 1968.  Pictured: Left to Right Teacher: Mrs. Verma Sowell Top: Peggy Goff, Dalmas Goff, Johnny Campbell, Jimmy Byers, Unknown, David Burks, Unknown Middle: Unknown, Nancy Thomas, Unknown, Unknown, Unkown, Unknown, Unknown Bottom: Mary Lou Collier (?), Wayne (?), Unknown, Larry Routon,...
Topics: Big Island High School, Mrs. Sowell, 1956, Liberty High School, baby boomers, class of 1968, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Henry M. Moore ?
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The Douglas Farm was built by John Sledd in the 1792. The home was the first and oldest brick house built in Bedford County. It was constructed on a rock foundation. The brick, which was made in the yard from Virginia clay, survived because it was fired and did not come in contact with the earth (rock foundation). Farms generally had outbuildings like the ones listed here. The Douglas farm had a springhouse, 4-level chicken house, blacksmith shop, corn house, milking barn, ice house, smoke...
Topics: Douglas Farm, Bedford County, first brick house, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Pearch (Perch) Ferry Crossing at Coleman Falls on the Bedford side. It was a "lovers-lane" type of place. The house in the background is the McNeely home. The Pearch still exists today. 
Topics: Pearch Ferry Crossing, McNeely house, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This is Tink Spinner's cabin on Eva Yoder Sike's property. The cabin was made of chestnut logs.
Topics: Tink Spinnner, Eva Yoder Sike, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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House at Step Rock in Big Island, VA. Gilbert Goff was a carpenter who put down the floors in the house. Now, in 2019, the house has completely fallen down.
Topics: Step Rock house, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Houses below Gatewood's store, near Sharron Church in Big Island, VA.
Topics: Gatewoood's store, Sharron Church, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by James Douglas
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Brown's Store, located on Riverside Circle (Rt. 604) where Hunting Creek flows into the James River, was a general store with a rental apartment on the 2nd floor. The Douglas family sold eggs and vegetable to the store to sell. 
Topics: General Store, Brown's Store, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA, VA,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Jake Yoder's apple and peach packing house. Jake Yoder and his wife Bernice had four daughters: Linda, Tera, Barbara and Eva. The land was deeded to Jake by Jesse Douglas. They lived their after Jake was in the service. The apple packing house employed a number of people during the picking season. Men and boys would pick the apples and bring them to the house where the women would pack them and get them ready to be sold or shipped. 
Topics: Jake Yoder, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by James Douglas
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A shoe repair shop (anything leather) owned by Richard "Dick" Wood. It was built around the late 1950s. Mr. Wood repaired shoes in this building throughout his adult life.  He also sold candy, cigarettes, cigars, ice cream, prophylactics, and soda pops. Mr. Wood had been crippled by polio and was unable to walk. So Mr. Wood crawled on his hands and knees. Mr. Wood had self-crafted leather chaps that covered his shins and knees.    A local resident designed a small metal car for Mr....
Topics: Shoe Repair Shop, Dick Wood, leather shoes, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Big Island Public Library was expanded in 1999. The dedication took place May 8, 1999.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This article is about the Summer Reading Club at Big Island in it's early years. And the photo shows librarian Carolyn Morehead accepting a donation from town local Maurice Arthur. 
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Donations, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This boat was built in 1988 for the eight day James River Nekoosa Batteau Festival. It was built from February to June, 120 people were involved with the building process. The boat was 60 ft. long and 8 ft. wide. It was the biggest batteau to go down the river. Before this, the largest was between 40-50 ft.  They built the boat to be historically accurate. A lot of the boat was hand carved.  The boat went down to Farmville when the tobacco farmhouse was still opened. They gave them two...
Topics: James River, Nekoosa Batteau, Festival, 1988, Bateau, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Long house in 1962. It was a grand house. It had a split staircase and a brick kitchen floor. There was a second kitchen that was separate from the house and had a living quarters with it. There were 19 rooms in the home and each one had a fireplace. The walls were 18 inches thick. It had a 360 degree view. The was a brick wine cellar in the basement.  The Long family lived there. The mother's name was Dot Long. Dot was a cafeteria manager. Her children were Parky, Richard, Michael,...
Topics: Long house, Long family, Dot Long, 1962, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by James Douglas
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At the time this photo was taken in 1971, the station was still operational, but with limited hours and capabilities. This is not the original station which had been built near the Bank and closer to the Paper Mill. These photos were taken because Mr. Douglas knew the station was slated to be demolished in the near future. It was torn down in the 1980s. This station had a service to Lynchburg from Big Island everyday. Waugh had a post office where they'd hang the mailbag and the train would...
Topics: Train Station, Big Island Depot, Big Island Train Station, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Miller's cabin in Big Island. One of the oldest log cabins in Big Island. It is still standing today (2019). 
Topics: Miller's Cabin, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The old Hunting Creek Baptist Church, which has been torn down. It sat to the left of where the church is today. It was formed when the Hunting Creek Meeting House divided into different churches. The meeting house was originally formed from Suck Spring Baptist Church.
Topics: Hunting Creek Baptist Church, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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John Day's store that is still standing today (2019). This store sold beer, wine and alcohol and also had a porch on it at one time.
Topics: John Day, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Fall of 2007 on the James River. The river was used for mainly fishing in the past. Now it is more of a recreational river. This photo features David Anderson.
Topics: James River, Recreation, Fall, 2007, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Buy A Brick was a fundraiser for the original Big Island Library. Students were sent home with this letter. The class that sold the most bricks would receive a pizza party. 
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This garage was originally owned and ran by Walter Burks (also listed as Burke and Burk). Walter's sons Ronnie and Arthur took it over after him.  This garage was a place where men gathered to talk and gossip. If they wanted to know anything, they'd come here to talk about it. Women did not come to the garage.  There was another garage down the street. The Grisby Garage was later closed and reopened as a pool hall.
Topics: Burks' Garage, Walter Burks, Ronnie Burks, Arthur Burks, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Mr. Gatwood's house and Mrs. Milliem's store
Topics: Gatwood, Milliem, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Tom Booker's apple packing house in 1971. The packing house was next door to the Yoder farm which was also an apple orchard farm. Jesse Douglas sold Tom Booker approximately 90 acres to build the orchard on after WWI. In the packing house, apples were sorted and packed to be shipped out.  Tom Booker stayed mostly to himself and was said to have PTSD from the war.  Mrs. Booker was on the Bedford County School Board. 
Topics: Tom Booker, Yoder farm, packing house, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Tom Sikes, husband of Eva Yoder Sikes, worked as a boy scout leader in Big Island. Tom was originally from North Carolina.  Tom was the longest Boy Scout leader in the area, approximately 20 years. Tom's troupe had nearly a 100% Eagle Scout certification rate. 
Topics: Tom Sikes, Boy Scouts, Eva Yoder Sikes, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The original log cabin was covered over and added onto many times throughout the generations from the mid 1700s. It was recently torn down in 2019. It was the original home of the Douglas family. 
Topics: George Douglas, Mary Douglas, mid 1700s, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Tabernacle Church of God.
Topics: Tabernacle Church of God, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This was the floor plan for the original Big Island Library.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Floor Plan, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Sledd Douglas Tobacco Barn was built in approximately 1820.
Topics: Douglas Tobacco Barn, 1820, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This was the tenant house on the Burks' farm.
Topics: Burks Farm, tenant house, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This article from the Virginian Librarian is about the students of Bedford Educational Center (BEC) building the Big Island Public Library. In the photos you can see the floor plan for the library and what the original library looked like before it was added on to.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Virginian Librarian, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The house was built in 1792. It is the oldest brick home in Bedford County. All the bricks were handmade in the ward from red clay. It was the home of Jesse and Eva Douglas. Eva played the organ at Hunting Creek Church and was described as a gracious woman.
Topics: Douglas home, Eva Douglas, Jessie Doulgas, oldest brick home, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island,...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The story of Big Island Public Library as told by librarian Carolyn B. Morehead. Written Jan. 6, 1993.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Carolyn B. Morehead, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The Legend of Step Rock:  Back in the days of the Native Americans, a young man and a young woman fell in love and wanted to marry. But their fathers were from different tribes and did not approve of this union. So one moonless night, the couple ran away riding a bare back horse. When they got to the edge of Step Rock, the horse stopped and threw the couple off, bashing their heads on the rock and killing them instantly.  Legend has it that if you put your ear to the rock at midnight, on a...
Topics: Step Rock, Legend of Step Rock, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This is Emmett Mitchell's house at Coleman Falls. His brother David Mitchell owned a store. Later, Curry and Edith Mitchell lived in the house and ran the store, which was near Charlemont Road and Sedalia.   A new house sits here today (2019).
Topics: Emmett Mitchell, Coleman Falls, David Mitchell, Curry and Edith Mitchell, Big Island, Virginia, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This is a view of the Peaks in early fall of 2007. The photo was taken in the Anderson's front yard on Waugh Switch Road in Big Island.
Topics: Peaks, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This photo is of the North end of Big Island.
Topics: Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA, North End
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The James River during the fall of 2007. The view is looking towards Amherst County. 
Topics: James River, Fall, 2007, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Phones were in Big Island around 1953. People worked there to "work the switches."
Topics: Phones, phone relay building, 1953, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Earl Hughes and his daughter Margaret Hughes in November or December of 1950. Earl would be around 39 years-old in this photo.
Topics: Earl Hughes, MargaretHughes, 1950, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Article by Rebecca Novak about the moving of the Big Island Library through town to it's current location next to Big Island Elementary School. The library was built at the Bedford Educational Center. The date of the article was June 28, 1989.
Topics: Bedford Educational Center, Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia,...
Construction on the Big Island Library took longer than expected. Instead of opening in the summer of 1989, the library opened in the fall of 1989.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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The new church was built in the 1940s or 50s. The education wing was built on in the late 50s, early 60s. Stained glass windows were added sometime between 1969-1973.  
Topics: Hunting Creek Baptist Church, new church, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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These photos are of the dedication ceremony for the library's opening, including the dedication program. The dedication took place on Oct. 15, 1989.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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This is Earl and Jean Hinton Hughes. The couple got married in 1943 and then moved back to Big Island in 1949.  During the depression era, Earl traveled to New York at 18 years-old to work during the summer. He worked and sent money back to the farm. Earl never finished high school after he started working.  Earl first saw Jean on her seventh birthday. Earl was Jean's babysitter. The two started dating when Jean was 20 years-old. Earl worked as a milk plant foreman. This job kept him out of...
Topics: Earl and Jean Hinton Hughes, Earl Hughes, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big...
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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House below Perrow Farm.
Topics: Perrow Farm, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
These photos are of the Big Island Public Library being moved through town to it's current location next to Big Island Elementary School. The trip was successful and nothing on the library was damaged. It was moved in June of 1989.
Topics: Big Island Public Library, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
by Photographer: Willie Douglas
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Milam's store was a pop shop and a gathering place in the town. Local families, including the Douglas family, supplied fruits, eggs and vegetables to the store to be sold.
Topics: Milam's store, Milam, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA
Big Island, Virginia, History Project
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Lasenby's store was later owned by Mr. Bryant, father of Bonnie Bryant. The store sold penny candy and canned goods. The canned goods were behind the counter and patrons would come in and ask the proprietor to fill their order. There was a big Coca-Cola box and the store also had a meat counter in the back where a butcher worked and cut meat to sell.  The store wouldn't have been regarded as part of Bedford because it was closer to the Suck Spring and Sedalia areas.  It is still standing...
Topics: Lasenby's store, Bryant's Grocery, Big Island, Virginia, Big Island, Virginia, VA, Big Island, VA